To help you become a more responsible traveler in 2018 I’ve launched a monthly series of Responsible Travel Challenges. Each month will focus on an ethical change you can make to your travel style that will benefit the communities you visit and ultimately our precious planet. Each detailed guide will contain specific tips on how to be a more responsible traveler. Adhere to these suggestions to make an impact as you travel.
FEBRUARY RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL CHALLENGE: STAYING IN MINDFUL ACCOMMODATION
Accommodation is one of the biggest expenses that travelers have. Whether you’re splurging on a luxury resort or spending pennies on a shared dorm room it is possible to book mindful accommodation across all budgets. Patronize locally-owned establishments from hostels, inns, hotels, guesthouses, and homestays. Many luxury properties are making major strides to be both socially and environmentally sustainable. Why does any of this matter? Because the tourism sector is responsible for 5% of the total global C02 emissions, of which 20% is derived from accommodation properties. It’s our duty to chose places to stay that have a low carbon footprint and positively impact locals. The February Responsible Travel Challenge is to book mindful accommodation. Here are some platforms you can use for booking mindful accommodation.
Book Different, which is powered by Booking.com, is a great resource to utilize for finding green hotels as they have 7,000 eco-certified accommodation options. They categorize hotels based on their eco-certifications such as the Audubon International Green Lodging Program which verifies facilities that meet environmental best practice standards and Green Globe which certifies hotels sustainability performance. Another booking platform to bookmark is Ecobnb–a database of over 2,000 eco-friendly accommodations from treehouses, glamping tents, and farm stays.
Even if you haven’t booked a property that is making strides towards sustainability there are a few things you can do to minimize your waste wherever you stay. For starters, if the towels or sheets in your room are stark white it is most likely that the hotel is using bleach to keep them pristine. I learned during my stay at Bali Eco Stay that a truly eco-friendly accommodation would never use white sheets for this exact reason. If you do find you have white sheets, please be extra cautious not to ask for fresh linens and towels each day. It’s a luxury that just isn’t necessary and causes more harm than the joy that a daily clean robe may bring you.
You can create your own responsible travel code to be mindful by committing to always leave out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your room door. Do you really need your room cleaned daily? How often would you clean if you were at home? I know a clean hotel room can be wonderful after a long day of exploring. Just tidy things up yourself to cut back on the energy use of vacuums, water usage for cleaning linens, and toxic chemical cleaning products. After you’ve tidied up your room obviously turn off the lights and air conditioning, even if your room only operates power when the key card is inserted. In addition, unplug any electrical items such as the coffee machine, hot water heater, lamps, etc. Try to follow this method at home to reduce your carbon footprint and your electricity bill!
The most surefire way to stay in mindful accommodation is to book your stay at an eco-friendly property. This is my favorite way to travel as eco accommodations usually offer healthy organic meals, use local artisan crafts as decor, employ marginalized locals, use natural building materials, and are committed to the environment. However, more and more properties claim to be eco-friendly so do your due diligence to make sure you feel confident about the eco-claims. Most of the eco-friendly places that I’ve stayed even avoid using that term as even they see opportunities where they could make greener decisions. Obvious red flags are anything plastic from straws to toiletry bottles. These can easily be replaced by reusable ceramic containers or bamboo straws. Any property committed to sustainability would invest in reusable materials. Some of my favorite eco-conscious places that I’ve stayed at are Sumbiling Eco Village in Brunei, Khamlia Camp in Morocco, Mahagedara Retreat in Sri Lanka, Moonriver Lodge in Malaysia, Evergreen Ecolodge in Nepal, and Bali Eco Stay.
The next best option is homestays. Staying in homestays as you travel not only puts money directly into local hands but it’s simply one of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in the community culture. You’ll have the option to stay in a private room which will probably be simple but you’ll have everything you need from a comfortable bed to access to a toilet, you just may not have WiFi or other amenities that are typical at hotels. Homestays are also one of the most affordable accommodation options. Homestay.com released that the average nightly room price from their 50,000 homestays in over 160 countries is US$31!
Every time I’ve stayed in a homestay I end up spending hours with my host family learning about their daily lives. Usually, after forging a relationship, they’re open to showing me around their neighborhood, introducing me to neighbors, and inviting me to partake in local happenings. My favorite homestay experience thus far has been the time I spent in Sebatu Village with Duara Travels. In four short days, I had a crash course on Balinese culture, attended a sacred ceremony at the village Hindu temple, ate delicious homemade dishes, explored the produce market and rice fields, and made lifelong friends. I wouldn’t have had these wonderful experiences had I stayed in a hotel in Ubud, the nearby tourist hub.
Don’t fret if you aren’t keen on the idea of staying in a family home. There are still dozens of ways you can make an impact through your accommodation choices. Guesthouses are similar to homestays as they’re usually very affordable and you’ll likely have the chance to interact with natives. Guesthouses or bed and breakfasts offer a bit more privacy than homestays and usually have more amenities. I typically use Airbnb to book month-long rentals as I want to be sure that my tourism dollars are benefiting locals. Airbnb offers the widest array of accommodation options with the most unique and beautiful rental properties. You can set your preferences to a shared room, private room, shared apartment, or private dwelling. If you’re just passing through try renting a room in a shared apartment so you can get to know your host and see their city through their eyes.
Save US$40 off your first booking of US$75 (or €32 towards your first trip of €61) on Airbnb and by using my referral link.
Even Booking.com offers bed and breakfasts and guesthouses around the globe. Booking.com is my favorite platform to use for reservations as there are no hidden fees, great customer service, and most reservations can be changed for free. To encourage you even further to book a guesthouse on Booking.com for your next vacation you can earn $20 cash back when you use this link.
If you already have a hotel in mind where you want to stay search to see if it is listed on Wander. Wander makes a donation to a charity partner with each and every hotel reservation on the platform at no extra cost to you! They have over 250,000 hotels to choose from, each at competitive prices to other booking platforms. Similarly, with Kind Traveler, you can make a $10 donation to a local or global charity and earn exclusive hotel discounts.
I’ve said it many times but allow me to reiterate: luxury travel does not have to be irresponsible travel. Many international hoteliers are rolling out CSR programs that benefit local communities, preserve cultural heritage, or make a positive impact on the environment. It can take a bit of research to discover which 5-star properties are giving back. I’ve collaborated with Shangri-La and Alila and can attest that they’re committed to sustainability across all of their properties.
There are a few ways you can make sure the property you’re staying at is impacting the local community and/or environment in a positive way. An excellent resource to see if your potential hotel is genuinely ethical, or just greenwashing, is to see if the property has passed the rigorous EarthCheck eco-certification test by using the search bar tool on the website. Another qualification to look for is the World Luxury Hotel Awards Eco/Green Hotel, Eco Resort, Eco Safari Lodge, or Eco/Green Villa badge.
Where have you booked mindful accommodation? Share with us in the comments so we can also stay there!
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